Serbia’s President-elect Tomislav Nikolic has resigned from his Serb Progressive Party, saying he wants to be the leader of all Serbian citizens. Mr. Nikolic submitted his resignation Thursday to the party’s main board and named his deputy Aleksandar Vucic as interim leader until a party congress elects new leadership. He urged Serbian politicians, including his own party members, to form a new ruling coalition as soon as possible.
Nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic has won the Serbian presidency, which could hamper his country’s bid to join the European Union. His supporters took to the streets of Belgrade and the Serb-controlled north of Kosovo to celebrate his win. The Center for Free Elections and Democracy, an independent polling group, said the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party won 49.4 per cent of the vote, while pro-European Union incumbent Boris Tadic received 47.4 per cent in Sunday elections. The results are expected to be officially confirmed later on Monday. Meanwhile, in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Sunday night, Nikolic supporters waved Serbian flags and chanted slogans against Tadic. “Serbia will not stray from its European road,” Nikolic insisted Sunday. “This day is a crossroad for Serbia.” Tadic conceded defeat, saying, “I wish Nikolic the best of luck.”
Serbians voted Sunday in a presidential runoff election that pits pro-European Union Boris Tadic against nationalists Tomislav Nikolic who wants closer ties with Russia and is threatening protests if he loses because of alleged ballot rigging. The vote is key for Serbia’s plans to become an EU member, after being an isolated pariah state under late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s. It also will determine whether Serbia continues to reconcile with its neighbors and wartime foes, including the former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008. Tadic, who is seeking a third term, was slightly ahead of Nikolic in the first round of voting on May 6, while Nikolic’s Serbian Progressive Party won the most votes for parliament, but is likely to stay without power because Tadic’s Democrats have agreed to form the next government with the third-placed Socialists. The nationalists have accused the Democrats of rigging the general vote, including the first-round presidential ballot — the charge that was rejected by authorities, but is fueling fears of possible post-election violence.
Serbia’s two presidential candidates took part in a bitter televised debate just ahead of next week’s second round of elections. Incumbent Boris Tadic, who resigned his presidential mandate last month and called for new elections, accused opponent Tomislav Nikolic, of the Serbian Progressive Party, of fabricating an election fraud scandal just after the first round of elections. “You made the electoral fraud up, and nothing you said is true,” Tadic asserted during Wednesday’s debate. “If it were true, you would have initiated court proceedings either here or you would address the court in Strasbourg, where you have been so many times.”
Serbia’s ruling Democratic Party asked local and foreign watchdogs to step up scrutiny of the presidential runoff vote after the opposition claimed election fraud during May 6 balloting. The party, led by incumbent President Boris Tadic, urged the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Belgrade-based Center for Free Elections and Democracy to deploy more observers during the May 20 second round between Tadic and Tomislav Nikolic, the leader of the opposition Serbian Progressive Party. “It is in our deep interest that we have fair and regular elections and that the legitimacy of elected institutions is not in question,” the Democrats said in the e-mailed statement. The outcome of the presidential elections may determine whether Serbia keeps striving for European Union membership under Tadic or turns east for political and economic ties under Nikolic’s leadership. Tadic won the first round, while his party finished second in a concurrent parliamentary race, giving it six seats less than the Progressive Party’s 73 in the 250-member assembly. The Progressive Party claimed vote rigging on May 10, a day after the second-place Democrats and the third-ranking Socialist Party of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic agreed to stay in a coalition, leaving Nikolic’s party in opposition.
Serbian nationalists on Saturday called for nationwide street protests over alleged election fraud, fueling tensions before a presidential runoff vote. Nationalist leader Tomislav Nikolic said the Serbian Progressive Party will start peaceful protests as of Sunday because “we don’t recognize’’ parliamentary and local election results held last weekend. Nikolic will face pro-European Union candidate and incumbent President Boris Tadic in a runoff presidential election on May 20. Tadic led Nikolic by half a percentage point in the first round, and is considered a favorite in the runoff.
Serbia’s bid to join the European Union will be strongly tested in elections this weekend that pit ruling pro-Western democrats against nationalists who are promising jobs, economic revival and closer ties with Russia. Held in the shadows of French and Greek ballots, some seven million voters in Serbia will choose a president, a 250-seat national parliament and local councils—a triple vote held amid deep economic problems, joblessness and widespread discontent over rapidly falling living standards. Sunday’s balloting is key for Serbia’s plans to become an EU member, after being an isolated pariah state under late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic in the ’90s. It also could determine whether Serbia continues to reconcile with its neighbors, including the former province of Kosovo which declared independence in 2008.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was dragged into the swirling waters of Balkan politics on Friday after participating in public events with two opposition-party candidates in hotly contested election fights in Serbia. A senior politician from the Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, who is running for mayor of Belgrade, said he invited Mr. Giuliani to advise him on how to revitalize the Serbian capital on the Danube River and pull it from an economic slump. Mr. Giuliani, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and now works as a consultant, also met with Tomislav Nikolic, the party’s candidate for president, in what is expected to be a close race against the pro-Western incumbent, Boris Tadic, of the Democrat Party. Messrs. Vucic and Nikolic used to be prominent members of a staunchly nationalistic party that opposed European Union membership and condemned U.S. involvement in the Balkans. They left in 2008 and launched the Progressive Party, which says it supports Serbia’s eventual membership in the EU.
Serbia will elect a new president May 6, and the campaign is expected to focus on two key issues: the Balkan country’s flagging economy and its bid to join the European Union. The two leading candidates are Boris Tadic, who formally resigned as president on Thursday to make way for an early election, and Tomislav Nikolic, whose nationalist Serbian Progressive Party has Russia’s support. In March, Tadic persuaded the EU to allow Serbia to officially apply for membership, following the long-awaited arrest of the Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic. He was turned over to a U.N. tribunal in The Hague to face genocide charges. Tadic also has overseen a more conciliatory stance toward Kosovo, a former province that declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Many countries, including the United States, have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but not Serbia or Russia.
Serbian pro-Western President Boris Tadic said Wednesday he is resigning, paving the way for an early presidential election where he will face a strong challenge from a nationalist candidate. Serbia’s parliament speaker is expected to call the vote for May 6, the same day when parliamentary and local elections are already scheduled. In the presidential vote, Tadic will be challenged by nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic who has received tacit support from Russia. Several other candidates are also expected to run, but without real chances of winning.
Serbia’s president on Tuesday called for parliamentary elections for May 6. The government that emerges is expected to take Serbia into talks on joining the EU, which would be a setback for Russia, a longtime Serbian ally. After years of bitter rivalry, Serbia’s two main parties may join forces to push through the reforms needed to eventually join the European Union. But past events suggest that horse-trading over a new coalition government will take months.